September 12, 2007
Federal prosecutor Mitchell Mars was telling the jury about a litany of 18 Outfit murders -- solved by federal investigators, not locals -- and he put several corpses at the feet of convicted mobster Frank Calabrese Sr.
"He has left a trail of bodies, literally ..." Mars said Tuesday, as Calabrese began shouting, interrupting him."THEM ARE LIES!!" Calabrese shrieked, startling the jury.
It was the real Frank coming out after weeks of suppression in federal court, with that tight little smile of his.
It was Chinatown Frank, the scary Frank with the famous thumbs, and federal marshals inched closer lest Frank pop for good.
Mars didn't flinch, and he continued speaking.
" ... during his career with the Outfit."
Then the jury retired to deliberate on the second phase of the landmark Family Secrets trial -- deciding which Outfit figures committed previously unsolved murders -- and my guess is that the jury is ready to be done with this.
What must bother Calabrese, and his co-defendants Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo, Paul "The Indian" Schiro, and James "Little Shamrock" Marcello, is what Mars told that jury.
"This is not a case of guilt by association. It is guilt by participation in a criminal organization that protected itself and its members by homicide," Mars said.
"They lived to kill. They lived to have money, and they lived to kill."
The "Them are lies" shriek was the dramatic highlight of the day, but here's one thing that isn't a lie:
Since the Chicago Outfit began controlling select politicians at City Hall, and select businesses and select cops and county judges, there have been hundreds of Outfit hits.
And local law enforcement hasn't solved one for more than 40 years. They've only solved a scant few Outfit killings since Paul "The Waiter" Ricca let Al Capone pretend to be boss of Chicago.
I might be wrong. There might be one, or two, solved in the last four decades by local law enforcement, perhaps the real police in blue uniforms, the men and women who don't get promoted because they don't know the secret political passwords.
And if I'm wrong, I'm sure that interim Chicago Police Supt. Dana Starks will invite me to Cafe Bionda for lunch and lecture me on my heresy, as legendary Bionda chef and Reserve nightclub fixture Joe Farina whips us up something tasty.
But according to a Chicago Tribune investigation in 1989, no Outfit murder had been solved in Cook County in 20 years.
That was 18 years ago.
The report focused on the Cook County sheriff's office, and how high-ranking sheriff's officials "sabotaged investigations of brutal, execution-style murders and covered up evidence of possible crimes of other law enforcement officials, and judges."
Back then, sheriff's officers, the Tribune said, systematically concealed evidence, blocked efforts by other law enforcement agencies to interview witnesses, and hid their own relationships with organized crime suspects in murder investigations.
One of the murders was the 1976 slaying of Michael Curtin, a chemical company executive found facedown in the back of his tan Cadillac in Maywood, strangled, Chinatown-style, and shot twice in the head for good measure.
Curtin's murder was not one of the 18 homicides in the Family Secrets trial.
A tiny black notebook was discovered in Curtin's pocket. In that notebook, the Tribune reported, were the names of Cook County judges and lawyers, with dollar amounts written alongside.
Lt. James Keating seized the evidence, including Curtin's precious little black book, which vanished forever, as did the bullets that were mysteriously removed from Curtin's cold skull.
Keating was convicted in 1986 for taking payoffs to protect Outfit vice operations in the suburbs. And in 1989, he was convicted in federal court for racketeering and murder conspiracy.
Since then, he's been in prison. Some literary muse must have whispered to him in the federal pen, because he's written a novel, "All on the Same Side," about the friendships between politicians, local cops and the Outfit.
One of the characters in the book is a so-called Chief William Murphy -- who vaguely resembles former Chicago Police Chief of Detectives William Hanhardt, himself in federal prison for running an Outfit jewelry heist ring with Schiro.
Murphy's buddy is a mob boss named Dominic, who answers to another mob boss named Johnny, who may or may not have been shot in the nose years ago in real life, ruining his looks. And Murphy promises to kill investigations.
The book is fiction, sort of. But here are two facts:
If it weren't for the feds, the Chicago Outfit wouldn't worry about murder cases.
And Frank Calabrese wouldn't have to scream "Them are lies" to the jury deciding the rest of his life.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC